Communicators for Women Religious and Conference 2018.
I was privileged to receive a scholarship to attend the annual conference of Communicators for Women Religious in October 2018. The following video shows four communicators, employed by the Institute of the Americas, as they share some of the benefits of membership in CWR. It begins and finishes with the music of Sara Thomsen who gave spiritual nourishment to the gathering.
To watch a video of the CWR Conference 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas, please click here
Communicators for Women Religious is a professional organization of personnel responsible for communications within religious congregations of women. Our mission is to be a network of professional support and education for members who promote understanding of women religious, enhance their image and advance their mission. CWR is also a resource for organizations serving women religious.
This is the Mission Statement of an international organisation with which Mercy has become increasingly involved. It began around a table, when five religious women of different congregations shared their desire to support one another, in proclaiming the good news of religious ministry in the world and to give voice to Religious Life as a positive choice. It grew quickly in membership and, at its first conference in 1995, one of the speakers was Camille D’Arienzo rsm, Leader at the time in the Brooklyn congregation. In an email she shared: One of the blessings of the early days of CWR was the willingness to share honestly with other religious who, though formerly unknown to one another, recognized common goals, missions and dedication to promoting our shared values. Honesty secured our belief that we could do more together than we could alone.
Gemma Jablonski, Communicator with the Bernardine Franciscan Sisters; Paulette Gardner SSA; Kathleen Carroll, Communicator with the Congregation of Divine Providence
Today, CWR is an international network of more than 200 professional communicators, and the only organisation of its kind serving communicators for women religious. Members are in the USA, Canada, Australia, Italy, and Ireland. We represent religious congregations that range in size from 18 to as many as 4,000 vowed members worldwide. 70% of members are employed by religious congregations, showing a trend that has begun to occur in Ireland. Membership includes being on a Listserve, a shared email contact, where queries about policy or technology can be put to others, so that guidance can be shared. It also includes the use of Lynda, an on-line extensive resource that gives tutorials on computer use.
Constance Marie Tomyn CSSF and Spalding Hurst, Communicator with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth
One of the outstanding features is the inter-congregational nature of CWR, sharing a wide range of ministries, nourished by faith. It was reassuring to note during the conference that the pressures felt in Ireland on Religious Life are similar to those in other countries, and it was clear that the only way to share the Good News is doing so together.
Text, video and photography: Suzanne Ryder rsm, Western Province
On the evening of October 23rd, 2018 at the Clayton Hotel, Ballsbridge, a group of women religious leaders of Ireland came together on the invitation of the Irish group of CWR. That evening was a landmark occasion for this small, dedicated group of women religious who had been meeting as a pilot group for a period of almost three years.
‘It began with two.’ This short phrase attributed to Venerable Catherine may well find an echo in the hearts and minds of us mercies. CWR Ireland did begin with two. Thomasina Finn rsm was beavering away at her desk at CORI, managing its Website and publishing its Newsletter. In 2015, she was approached by Patricia Lenihan, already a member of CWR International. Together, they identified a need for positive communication to counteract the negative stories which continue to be commonplace in the Ireland of today. Thomasina assisted Patricia by inviting the then Congregation Leaders to consider sending a communication person to an initial exploratory meeting to share levels of interest in the whole area of communication.
Marie Stuart rsm points to those joining the group by Zoom
In response to that invitation, 14 women attended a first meeting in January 2016. Three of the group were lay people representing congregations as communicators. As they continued to meet on a regular basis a sense of expectancy, hope and new energy began to emerge among them, and soon nothing was to deter them from their goal of seeking together new ways of communicating the Good News of Jesus Christ. A new language perhaps that I for one would like to learn and speak!
At the heart of what CWR Ireland stands for is the empowerment of its members in a collaborative space with an opportunity for networking. Ask any of its members to describe in three words what this movement is about and they will, without hesitation, either in unison or individually say Collaboration, Welcome, Support. That word collaboration keeps coming up as an overarching tightly held principle and value.
L-R: Úna Agnew SSL, Suzanne Ryder rsm, Attracta Tighe rsm, Kathryn Lennon fcj, Patricia Lenihan rsc, Margaret Cartwright Vocations Ireland, Marie Dunne hfs and Michelle Robertson, Communicator with OLA Sisters
Through contact with CWR International, particularly with Nick Schafer the CEO, plans developed to recognise the Irish group as a region of the whole. To formalise this new moment in the history of CWR Ireland, a Ritual of the Ratification of the group as a Regional group took place on December 13th, 2018. Members of CWR from round the world joined in the ceremony via Zoom. This was truly an historic moment, grace filled, bonding and celebratory, concluding with a hymn newly composed for the occasion by one of the members, Marie Dunne a Sister of the Holy Faith.
Co-creators all in the ministry of communication, let us wish them well in their endeavour.
Text: Attracta Tigue rsm, Western Province
Photographs: Bernadette Corew (representative of CoR, Conference of Religious of England & Wales) and new member of the group